GigaOm Key Criteria for Evaluating Data Center Switching Solutionsv3.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Data Center Switching Sector Brief
  3. Decision Criteria Analysis
  4. Analyst’s Outlook
  5. About Andrew Green

1. Executive Summary

A decade ago, data centers were much smaller, and applications were typically huge, monolithic affairs deployed using the classic client-server model. The core-distribution-access architecture model for networking served those applications well in data centers with north-south data flows because the application was hosted on a single server that communicated with clients outside of the data center.

In contrast, applications today are built using microservices, which run on different servers within the data center. Microservices must communicate with each other to achieve the functionality of the wider application, requiring more east-west traffic than their monolithic counterparts do. This dynamic led the microservices of today’s applications to require a change in data center architecture: namely, the move to leaf-spine deployments with two switching layers.

Another change that is seeing increased adoption in the data center switching space is the use of disaggregated solutions. These types of solutions exchange integrated hardware and software provided by a single vendor for bare-metal hardware appliances and separate network operating systems (NOSs).

This approach allows data center operators more flexibility and control over the networking infrastructure. While we don’t expect to see all data center infrastructure shifting toward disaggregated solutions overnight, vendors that focus only on integrated solutions may well be left behind.

With new architecture models and disaggregated solutions, along with the increased demand for data and the consolidation of data center operations resulting in fewer and fewer players, the key characteristic to assess in any solution is scalability. In this context, scalability is highly dependent on how vendors support design, deployment, and operation activities.

Intelligence and automation around activities for Day 0, 1, 2, and beyond will differentiate the market between leading vendors and laggards. A highly scalable data center solution can support features such as one-touch deployments, artificial intelligence (AI)-based network troubleshooting and diagnostics, and batch policy configurations.

Business Imperative
Data center computing power can be scaled only in alignment with the available networking infrastructure. Even if the ingress and egress traffic remain consistent or sees a linear increase, modern applications make use of east-west traffic patterns, which can be supported only if the network has the features to scale. This is applicable for organizations that either sell infrastructure services or need to run workloads in their on-premises data centers.

Sector Adoption Score
To help executives and decision-makers assess the potential impact and value of a data center switching solution deployment to the business, this GigaOm Key Criteria report provides a structured assessment of the data center switching sector across five factors: benefit, maturity, urgency, impact, and effort. By scoring each factor based on how strongly it compels or deters adoption of data center switching, we provide an overall Sector Adoption Score (Figure 1) for data center switching of 3.8 out of 5, with 5 indicating the strongest possible recommendation to adopt. This indicates that data center switching is a credible candidate for deployment and worth thoughtful consideration.

The factors contributing to the Sector Adoption Score for data center switching are explained in more detail in the Sector Brief section that follows.

Key Criteria for Evaluating Data Center Switching Solutions

Sector Adoption Score







Figure 1. Sector Adoption Score for Data Center Switching

This is the third year that GigaOm has reported on the data center switching space in the context of our Key Criteria and Radar reports. This report builds on our previous analysis and considers how the market has evolved over the last year.

This GigaOm Key Criteria report highlights the capabilities (table stakes, key features, and emerging features) and non-functional requirements (business criteria) for selecting an effective data center switching solution. The companion GigaOm Radar report identifies vendors and products that excel in those decision criteria. Together, these reports provide an overview of the category and its underlying technology, identify leading data center switching offerings, and help decision-makers evaluate these solutions so they can make a more informed investment decision.


The GigaOm Key Criteria report provides a detailed decision framework for IT and executive leadership assessing enterprise technologies. Each report defines relevant functional and non-functional aspects of solutions in a sector. The Key Criteria report informs the GigaOm Radar report, which provides a forward-looking assessment of vendor solutions in the sector.

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